By ARTHUR ALLAD-IW
Issues on land dispossession, compensation unsolved yet
BAGUIO CITY – Various host communities of the Ambuklao–Binga hydro electric power plant entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the developers of the said plant for their (communities) use and management of facilities located in Marian Village and Sombrero in the barangays of Tinongdan, Itogon, and Ambuklao, Bokod.
Residents claimed that their main issues on land dispossession, compensation and other rights were not answered by the MOA.
The MOA is a result of at least seven months of negotiations facilitated by the Compliance Advisory Ombudsman of the World Bank (CAO/WB) among the stakeholders with the plant developer’ SN Aboitez Power – Benguet, Inc. (SNAP-Benguet), National Power Corporation, and Power Sectors Assets and Liabilities (PSALM).
The facilities included school, gym, day care center, market, multi-purpose halls among others. According to the MOA, the facilities are included in the Indigenous People’s Cultural Heritage Site which aimed to empower the indigenous peoples and for them to determine the usage of these to improve their quality of life and ensure for the future use of the next generation.
Ambuklao and Binga dams are undergoing rehabilitation by SNAP-Benguet which acquired the plant from the government as part of its privatization program.
SNAP-Benguet acquired a loan from the International Finance Corporation, a company under the World Bank which provides loans to private corporations.
World Bank intervention
In an interview with Amar Inamdar, a principal specialist of Compliance Advisor Ombudsman of the World Bank (CAO-WB) said they intervened in the conflict of the communities with the developer when the former’ issues were brought to their attention on June 20 last year.
Learning from the Bontok-Kalinga opposition of ex-Pres. Ferdinand Marcos’ World Bank-funded dam project along the Chico river in the 80s, Inamdar said that the MOA between the stakeholders was a product of openness from both sides.
It was a product of assurances, respects, understanding and talking, said Inamdar.
He claimed the World Bank, through the CAO, would intervene in any of their funded projects if the affected communities would raise their issues to them.
When asked when an issue be brought to them, he said when the dialogue in the local level does not work then it could be elevated to the CAO through a letter. His office would assess the conflict by interviewing various stakeholders and would try to adopt workable solutions, Inamdar explained.
He mentioned they had encounter problems like that of the Ambuclao-Binga in their funded Indonesia, India, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Kenya and others but they tried to work out solutions.
Main issues unanswered
A resident interviewed wondered why the MOA signing was brought at the 19th Tee Function Room of Club John Hay of this city.
“It could be better if the signing was witnessed and celebrated by the communities in Ambuclao and Binga,” he said.
Another resident claimed that the MOA is a token when it comes to their real problems of just compensation from their lands taken to give way for the two dams some 60 years ago.
“The original issues that we raised were our displacement, settlement, and recognition of our rights as indigenous peoples,” he said: “How do they address these problems with the transition of privatization of the plant? These issues should have been clarified first, at least,” the Nordis informant said. # nordis.net